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We back South-South governors’ call for inauguration of NDDC board – NDRC

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We are in full agreement with the demands of the Governors of the South-South States for the immediate inauguration of the Governing Board of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) to run the agency in line with the NDDC Act. We are pleased that the Governors of the Niger Delta states have now spoken out against the convoluted manipulations of the NDDC by the Niger Delta Minister Chief Godswill Akpabio, who has employed every excuse to run the NDDC like his personal property.

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It is good to know that the meeting was attended by the Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike; the Governor of Edo State, Godwin Obaseki; Governor of Bayelsa State, Senator Douye Diri and the Deputy Governor of Akwa-Ibom State, Mr Moses Ekpo, who represented Governor Emmanuel Udom, and Governor Okowa.

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We have always said that since the imposition of illegal interim managements by Akpabio in October 2019, fraud, financial recklessness and mismanagement have become the order of the day, especially since the interim managements are not beholden to anyone but Akpabio.

Delta State Governor and Chairman of the South South Governors Forum, Dr Ifeanyi Okowa, stated, the running of the NDDC in over a year by an Interim Caretaker Committee, and now, an interim administrator is worrisome as it does not augur well for the people of the Niger Delta as opportunity for all States to be represented as they ought to be represented in the board of the NDDC does not exist. “So, it means that the NDDC is actually run in such a manner that it is actually not truly beneficial to our people, because there are no stakeholders input in the running of the affairs of the NDDC.”

As the Governors further stated: “We feel already short changed as a people in the Niger Delta and we believe that we do not wish to see this kind of situation continue going forward into the future, because our people feel the pains, we do not want a situation where there is an abuse of processes, neither should we have a situation where we have abuse of funds.

“We believe that it is best for both the country, for the states of the Niger Delta and for the people of the Niger Delta when the due process is followed by the reconstitution of the board and also in reconstituting the board, that the reconstituted funds should come in and have funds to spend as per the law.”

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The current impasse at the NDDC is one that the federal government needlessly brought about through the meddlesomeness of Akpabio who wanted to have personal control of the NDDC for his own benefit. In his desire to hijack the NDDC, the minister sold the idea of appointing an Interim Management Committee which he can control despite the nomination of a Governing Board, which was duly nominated by the president and cleared by the Senate in line with the NDDC Act.

President Muhamnadu Buhari had in exercise of his constitutional powers forwarded to the Senate for confirmation, the appointment of a 16 – member board of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) via a letter dated 18th October, 2019, personally signed by him.

Specifically, President Buhari in the letter sought the Senate’s confirmation for Dr Pius Odubu, former Edo State Deputy Governor as chairman of the NDDC, Chief Bernard Okumagba as Managing Director and 14 others as members of its board.

The president’s letter read: “In accordance with the provision of Section 2(2)(a) of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) (Establishment) Act, 2000, I write to forward, for confirmation by the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the under listed nominees for appointment into the NDDC board, to occupy the positions indicated against their names.” President Buhari, in the letter, expressed hope that “the Senate will consider and confirm the nominees in the usual expeditious manner”.

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Accordingly, the written request, which was read on the floor of the Senate on Tuesday, October 22, 2019 by its President, Ahmad Lawan, was given expeditious consideration by the upper legislative chamber, which directed its Standing Committee on Niger Delta, to screen all the nominees and report back within a week. The Senate screened and confirmed the appointments of 15 out of the 16 nominees on Tuesday, November 5, 2019, based on the report tabled before it by the Committee on Niger Delta.

We support the legitimate demand of Niger Delta stakeholders that President Muhammadu Buhari should do the needful to put in place the board of the NDDC in line with the NDDC Act to manage the Commission for the benefit of the people of the Niger Delta states.

In the last 18 months (since October 2019), the NDDC has had three Interim Managements all appointed by Akpabio. The first was headed by Joi Nunieh, the second by Prof Daniel Pondei, and the third is the Interim Sole Administrator in the person of Effiong Okon Akwa, a former personal aide of Akpabio when he was Governor of Akwa Ibom State between 2007 and 2015.

Effiong Okon Akwa was also Special Assistant on Finance to a former NDDC MD (Bassey Dan-Abia). If, indeed, the idea is to supervise a credible forensic audit from its inception to 2019, which also covers the period of the Dan-Abia regime in NDDC (2013-2015), then Mr Effiong Akwa clearly cannot be the right person to supervise the conclusion of the forensic audit of the NDDC.

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It also exposes the folly in the whole excuse of having the audit before inaugurating the Governing Board. As we have stated previously, there is nowhere that a Governing Board of a public agency in Nigeria has been set aside for the purpose of conducting an external audit, not even when the current Buhari Administration audited all revenue earning agencies including the NNPC and the NPA between 2016 and 2017.

Under Akpabio and his Interim Managements, over N400 billion has been squandered without a visible project to show for it in any of the Niger Delta states. Even the NDDC head office building, which is being commissioned, was over-invoiced.

The current tension in the Niger Delta is because of how Akpabio has monopolised the running of the NDDC and frittered away its resources. The Niger Delta people deserve better. Mr President should heed the call of the people, terminate this interim administrator imposition and put in place the substantive Governing Board of the NDDC, to return the agency to the path of law, broad representation, checks and balances, probity, equity and accountability for the Niger Delta people.

Comrade Damian Nwikinaka is the national chairman of the Niger Delta Renaissance Coalition.

This content is promotrd by the Niger Delta Renaissance Coalition.

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